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Africa: Debt Update
Africa: Debt Update
Date distributed (ymd): 991005
Document reposted by APIC
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +US policy focus+
This posting contains excerpts from a speech by U.S. President
Bill Clinton to the annual meeting of the International
Monetary Fund and World Bank, including a new commitment to
cancel 100 percent of debt owed to the U.S. by Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries. It also contains initial reactions
to the speech by Jubilee 2000 UK and Jubilee 2000 South
September 29, 1999
Remarks by President Bill Clinton
to the 1999 annual meeting of the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank
Let me say, all of you know that a year ago we were here in a
time of crisis, perhaps the most severe financial crisis in
the global economy since the end of the Second World War -- a
grave challenge to the IMF and the World Bank. Thanks to the
hard work that you and your countries have done, economies
that were sliding down are rising again.
We have also worked hard, as Secretary Summers said, in the
wake of these crises to prevent future ones, to respond more
quickly and effectively, to lessen the toll they take on
ordinary citizens. We have intensified our efforts to
construct a global financial architecture that is stable and
strong in the new conditions of the new economy.
Still, those who were hit by this crisis were hit very hard.
And many are still reeling. People lost jobs and businesses
and dreams. So this can only be considered a continuing
challenge for us, certainly not a time for complacency. We
have more to do to restore people's faith in the future and to
restore their faith, frankly, in the global economy and in
global markets. Therefore, we have more to do to reform the
global financial foundation upon which the future will be
As we approach the 21st century we must also ask ourselves,
however: is it enough just to fix the market that is? Should
we accept the fact that, at a time when the people in the
United States are enjoying perhaps the strongest economy in
their history, 1.3 billion of our fellow human beings survive
on less than a dollar a day? Should we accept the fact that
nearly 40 million people -- after the Green revolution, when
most of us discuss agriculture and food as a cause for
international trade conflicts because we want to fight over
who sells the most food, since there are so many places that
can produce more than their own people need -- are we supposed
to accept the fact that nearly 40 million people a year die of
hunger? That's nearly equal to the number of all the people
killed in World War II.
Are we supposed to accept the fact that even though technology
has changed the equation of the role of energy in the
production of wealth; even though technology has changed the
distances in time and space necessary for learning, and for
business, as well as educational, interchanges -- are we
supposed to face the fact that some people and nations are
doomed to be left behind forever?
I hope we will not accept that. I hope we will start the new
millennium with a new resolve: to give every person in the
world -- through trade and technology, through investments in
education and health care -- the chance to be part of a widely
shared prosperity, in which all the peoples' potential can be
developed more fully. This is the challenge of the second
half-century of the life of the IMF and the World Bank. And
for me it is a personal priority of the highest order.
Open trade already has improved the prospects of hundreds of
millions by marketing the fruits of their labors and
creativity beyond their borders. In this way, both the IMF and
the World Bank have played a vital role in helping more
nations to thrive. We need you to work with the WTO to build
a rules-based framework for global trade. We need you to help
developing countries provide education and training to lift
wages, and to establish social safety nets for tough
I applaud the strong commitment you've made at these meetings
for concrete manifestations of support. We all must work to
keep the economies we have influence over open, and trade
growing, for developing and industrial powers alike.
In two months, I want to launch a new type of trade round in
Seattle, at the WTO ministerial. I want this round to be about
jobs and development. I want it to raise working conditions
for all. I want it to advance our shared goal of sustainable
development. By breaking down barriers to trade, leveling the
playing field, we will give more workers and farmers in those
countries that are struggling for tomorrow -- and in leading
industrial nations, as well -- more opportunities to produce
for the global marketplace.
In Seattle, I hope we will pledge to keep cyberspace
tariff-free, to help developing countries make better and
wider use of technology -- whether biotechnology or the
Internet. I hope we will pledge to open markets in
agriculture, and industrial products and services, creating
new activities for growth and development.
I hope we will also work to advance the admission of the 38
developing countries who've applied for WTO membership. And I
hope we'll keep working to give the least developed countries
greater access to global markets. Here in the United States,
I am working hard to persuade our Congress to pass my trade
proposals for Africa and the Caribbean Basin this year.
But the wealth of nations depends on more than trade. It also
depends on the health of nations. Last week at the United
Nations I committed the United States to accelerating the
development and delivery of vaccines for AIDS, tuberculosis,
malaria and other diseases which disproportionately afflict
poor citizens in the developing world.
At the same time, we must help these nations avert the health
cost and pollution of the Industrial Age -- using clean
technologies that not only improve the environment, but grow
the economy. Institutions like the World Bank play a special
role here. Your energy strategy is a very good start and I
thank you for it. I urge the Bank to continue setting
aggressive targets for lending that promotes clean energy. It
is no longer necessary to have Industrial Age energy use
patterns to grow a modern, powerful economy. In fact, those
economies will emerge more quickly with more sustainable
development strategies. ...
For many developing countries, however, there is a greater
obstacle in the path to progress. For many of them, excessive
and completely unsustainable debt can halt progress, drag down
growth, drain resources that are needed to meet the most basic
human conditions, like clean water, shelter, health care and
education. Debt and debt relief are normally subjects for
economists. But there is nothing academic about them. Simply
put, unsustainable debt is helping to keep too many poor
countries and poor people in poverty. That is clearly why the
Pope and so many other world leaders from all walks of life
have asked us all to do more to reduce the debt of the poorest
nations as a gift to the new millennium -- not just to them,
but to all the rest of us, as well.
Personally, I don't believe we can possibly agree to the idea
that these nations that are so terribly poor should always be
that way. I don't think we can, in good conscience, say we
support the idea that they should choose between making
interest payments on their debt and investing in their
children's education. It is an economic and moral imperative
that we use this moment of global consensus to do better. I
will do everything I can to aid this trend. Any country,
committed to reforming its economy, to vaccinating and
educating its children, should be able to make those kinds of
commitments and keep them.
In June, at the G-7 summit in Cologne, the world's wealthiest
nations made an historic pledge to help developing nations.
The debt relief program we agreed upon is a big step in the
right direction, dedicating faster and deeper debt relief to
countries that dedicate themselves to fundamental reform. This
initiative seeks to tie debt relief to poverty reduction and
to make sure that savings are spent where they should be -- on
education, on fighting AIDS and preventing it, on other
critical needs. It will help heavily indebted poor countries
to help themselves and help to build a framework to support
similar and important efforts by the IMF, the World Bank and
international financial institutions.
More than 430 million people could benefit from this effort.
In Bolivia, for example, debt relief could help the government
nearly double the people's access to clean water by 2004. In
Uganda, it could allow health and education spending to
increase by 50 percent between 1998 and 2001. Rural
development expenditures there would more than double. That's
why we all must provide our fair share of financing to global
Last week, to make good on America's commitment, I amended my
budget request to Congress and asked for nearly $1 billion
over four years for this purpose. We must keep adequate
assistance flowing to the developing countries, especially
through the International Development Association. I'm
encouraged by the financial commitments made by some of the
other donor countries this past week.
And I call on our Congress to respond to the moral and
economic urgency of this issue, and see to it that America
does its part. I have asked for the money and shown how it
would be paid for, and I ask the Congress to keep our country
shouldering its fair share of the responsibility. (Applause.)
Now, let me make one final commitment. Today, I am directing
my administration to make it possible to forgive 100 percent
of the debt these countries owe to the United States --
(applause) -- when -- and this is quite important -- when
needed to help them finance basic human needs, and when the
money will be used to do so. In this context, we will work
closely with other countries to maximize the benefits of the
debt reduction initiative.
We believe the agreements reached this weekend will make it
possible for three-quarters of the highly indebted poorest
countries, committed to implementing poverty and growth
strategies, to start receiving benefits sometime next year --
actually receiving the benefits sometime next year.
If we do these things as nations, as international
institutions, as a global community, then we can build a
trading system that strengthens our economy and supports our
values. We can build a global economy and a global society
that leaves no one behind, that carries all countries into a
new century that we hope will be marked by greater peace and
greater prosperity for all people.
We have before us perhaps as great an opportunity as the
people of the world have ever seen. We will be judged -- by
our children and grandchildren -- by whether we seize that
opportunity. I hope, and believe, that we all will do so.
Thank you very much.
Press Statement by Jubilee 2000 UK
Clinton Pledges Cancellation For Poor-Country Debt
30th September 1999
President Clinton announced today that the US would cancel
100% of debt owed to the United States by the world's poorest
countries, provided the money was spent on basic human needs.
His statement was made at a joint meeting of the World Bank
and IMF and laid down a direct challenge to other creditors to
increase the debt cancellation on offer.
"Today I am directing my administration to make it possible to
forgive 100 percent of the debt these countries owe to the
United States, when, and this is quite important, when needed
to help them finance basic human needs and when the money will
be used to do so," Clinton announced.
Explaining the decision, Clinton said: "Simply put,
unsustainable debt is helping to keep too many poor countries
and poor people in poverty." He went onto say that debt
cancellation was a "moral and economic imperative at this
moment of global consensus"
White House spokesman Jake Siewert confirmed that Clinton's
announcement represents an expansion of the previous U.S.
commitment to debt relief made at the Cologne summit of the
Group of Seven (G7) major powers in June. He said the United
States had intended initially to forgive 90 percent of the
debt owed by eligible nations. ``Today we're talking about 100
percent debt forgiveness,'' Siewert said.
In addition to the proposal, Clinton also outlined his
personal commitment to debt cancellation. He said:
"I hope we will start the new millennium with a new resolve,
to give every person in the world, through trade and
technology, through investments in education and health care,
the chance to be part of a widely shared prosperity in which
all the people's potential can be developed more fully."
He emphasised: "For me, it is a personal priority of the
The announcement follows intense pressure from the Jubilee
2000 movement, and in particular the declaration by the Pope
following a meeting with musicians, academics and campaigners
on September 23rd. The Pope specifically questioned why
progress in resolving the debt problem is so slow, and
expressed impatience with the protracted negotiations.
When Clare Short, UK Minister for International Development,
was challenged on the BBC Today Programme as to whether
Britain would be following suit, she said, "I'm sure Stephen
Byers will look into it." (Stephen Byers is the Minister for
the Department of Trade and Industry to whom 95% of Third
World debt due to Britain is owed).
Many government representatives at the IMF and World Bank
meetings had been saying privately and publicly that now that
the Cologne deal was agreed, the issue of debt had been dealt
with. However Clinton's statement breaks open the debate again
and should significantly advance the process.
Ann Pettifor, Director of Jubilee 2000 UK Coalition said:
"This announcement changes everything. In order to rise to
President Clinton's challenge to 'do better', the world's
leaders must meet again before the millennium and agree to
"Under the deal agreed this week in Washington, too many
countries will still be paying more on debts than on health
and education. It covers too few countries, offers too little
cancellation and has no deadline. As a result relief will be
stretched over too many years. The world's leaders must go
further - now."
03 October 1999
Jubilee 2000 South Africa Press Statement
on Clinton's Debt Cancellation Announcement
Since the 1980s, we have heard many grand announcements on
debt "cancellation". Yet the debt crisis in the Third World is
greater than ever. It is therefore with caution that we
welcome President Clinton's announcement of the 100%
cancellation of the United States bilateral debt. We further
welcome his stated acknowledgement that comprehensive debt
cancellation is a "moral and economic imperative". The leaders
of those other rich countries that have not yet cancelled
bilateral debt must do the same and scrap the total debt of
poor countries. Now is the time to do it.
Clinton's announcement weakens those critics who have said
that Jubilee 2000's demand for total debt cancellation is
economically irresponsible and impossible. Jubilee 2000 South
Africa will continue to insist on 100% multilateral debt
cancellation for Third World countries by the IMF and the
World Bank, without structural adjustment conditionalities.
Jubilee 2000 is shifting gear and will intensify pressure on
apartheid's bank-rollers to follow Clinton's announcement by
immediately scrapping the apartheid debt. Now is the time for
German, Swiss, UK, and US banks that profited from apartheid
to end their odious profiteering and make reparations for the
suffering they sponsored. Why must the victims pay twice for
apartheid? We call on them to cancel the illegitimate
Clinton too, can "do better". The imposition of structural
adjustment conditions attached to the promised 100% bilateral
cancellation is not an effective way to eradicate poverty. It
will obstruct real debt cancellation, increase joblessness,
limit delivery of social services, and deepen poverty and
inequality. He also needs to scrap his Africa Growth and
Opportunity Bill which, if it becomes law, will result in even
harsher conditions being imposed on African countries. Jubilee
2000 opposes the use of debt cancellation to unilaterally
impose economic policies that are detrimental to the poor.
Still too few countries are being promised cancellation of
too-narrowly selected debts. For a debt-free millennium,
Jubilee 2000 calls for the total cancellation of all Third
World debt. Clinton's offer to cancel the bilateral debt of
just 36 countries falls well short of our demand.
Clinton's annoucement must be in addition to and not replace
development aid. Development aid to poor countries has
recently been declining sharply. If grand debt cancellation
gestures are meaningful and not a charade, then real Jubilee
debt cancellation must provide real additional benefits to the
Jubilee 2000 has consolidated and strengthened its global
network of peoples' solidarity and this will gain expression
in the South South Summit. Jubilee campaigners and activists
from other powerful social movements from throughout Africa,
Latin America, and Asia will meet in Johannesburg from 18th to
21st November to push for immediate and total cancellation of
Third World debt.
For more information please contact Jubilee 2000 SA Publicity
Officer, George Dor, at tel. 011 648 7000, or National
Secretary, Neville Gabriel, at tel. 083 449 3934 George Dor 60
Isipingo Street, Bellevue East 2198, South Africa Tel: (27)
(11) 648 7000 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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